Memories of Vidyashala
Some 44 (or thereabouts) chaddi-buddies from the school I attended between 1973 and 1975, got together to mark the crossing of our 60th year. I was asked to write about my reminiscences of my life at the Vidyashala for a literary souvenir for this occasion. I was apprehensive about this since my memories of 45 years ago are murky to say the least. It’s like looking at a distant place through the wrong end of a telescope. But then who’s going to challenge my memories of those days — my classmates are in the same boat.
How did I come to study at the Vidyashala? My family had moved from Rajasthan to the small town of Mandya, not far from Mysore (about an hour’s ride on the train or bus). There were no suitable schools in that town. My father had heard from someone about the Vidyashala: a residential school not too far away, good facilities, discipline emphasized. Music to my dad’s ears no doubt — problem solved.
For reasons I don’t completely understand, some memories of Vidyashala life — seemingly of no importance — stick in my mind. I will recount a few of these in no particular order.
On religious holidays, we looked forward to special food including laddoos, payasa or something else. On regular days, dosa would sometimes be served for breakfast — I don’t recall idli on the menu, ever (does someone?). The dosas would be piled high on the serving plate — the hottest and crispest on top. So if you were first in line — you got the ones on top. The dosas got progressively colder and floppier down the line. We were assigned sit-down spots, I was somewhere in the middle so only rarely did I get an opportunity to sample the hot and crispy ones.
The school campus was ringed by compound walls and gated — hermetically sealed from the outside world. But once a month we could go out with a trusted relative. That was something I looked forward to, especially since my relatives — usually my parents — would take me to eateries of my choice and stock me with sweets which I would secrete into my suitcase for long term consumption.
The campus was large and had many open spaces, but one space I remember was a path that led from the school to the so-called Vedanta College. This was a nice shady path, great for walks in the cool of the morning. Somehow, I remember walking along this path only a few times. I remember one incident that never fails to amuse. One time, as I was walking with a friend, we saw an older man walking towards us. My friend whispered in my ear: “That’s Kuvempu!”. I certainly knew of Kuvempu but to my friend he was a hero, being a huge fan of his poems and stories. Kuvempu was supposed to be living somewhere near the school, so this encounter was not a big surprise. “Let’s ask him for his autograph”, my friend whispered to me. We fished out a pocketbook and a pen (don’t ask why we were carrying this on our walk) and mustered the courage to stop him and request his autograph. Unexpectedly, he was puzzled at our request and very self-effacing while we paid homage. He nevertheless signed his name. We thanked him profusely, and examined the signature in some excitement. Soon, excitement turned to surprise and embarrassment when we saw that the signature read: “Ka Siddhaiah”.
Routine — that in a nutshell captures daily life in the Vidyashala. I now recognize the value of having routines in my life. But then, it was something I had to accept. Our daily schedule was set — when to wake up, bathe, breakfast, lunch, study, pray, play etc etc. Sports and teams were assigned and we would rotate sports. The sports fields were many and hosted football and hockey (but not cricket). Routine and then doing our clothes washing and cleaning (toilet?). These certainly have made me self-reliant — something that gets me brownie points from my wife!
At the very least, my stay in the Vidyashala has given me sufficient ammunition to say to my children: when I was your age, I used to…..